Join us at 113 Wilson Avenue in Brooklyn from 3 – 7PM, as we host a worker from the Burgerville Workers Union and workers from local campaigns in a discussion about their strategies and challenges in waging active direct action union campaigns, free of the NLRB. Enjoy the afternoon in a beautiful backyard where cheap beer and IWW merch will be for sale to fundraise for these important campaigns. Bring whatever you wish to throw on the grill!
Please bring yourself, a bike, snacks, plenty of water, and maybe a friend or two, for this 26 mile ride. We will start in the Bronx, and make our way north mostly via trails (paved and unpaved). Once we arrive in Ossining, we will explore a small exhibit in the town about Sing Sing and its use of prison labor, and then go to the outside of the prison itself for a short speakout. Then, we will eat together and some will ride the 26 miles back, while another group will take the metro north back to the city. Tickets for the metro north are $10 to $15, so plan accordingly. If the weather is particularly adverse on Saturday, we will ride Sunday. Please email:[email protected] for any questions or updates.
Also please bring $5-$15 dollars as a donation to IWOC towards helping build for the strike. NO ONE TURNED AWAY FOR LACK OF FUNDS.
Please Call at: (917) 715-7866 If you’re running late!!! Thanks!
Several former workers at Beverage Plus and their supporters visited the company in Maspeth Queens this week to demand that the owner Yun Cho pay the more than $1.2 million owed to the workers from a wage theft lawsuit. Cho was present but did not come out to talk to the workers who then left a letter demanding payment. The company, which has also operated under the names YS Beverage and Grand Beverage, is a distributor in New York City, handling products such as Coca Cola and Poland Spring beverages. It was found liable in 2012 for multiple violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act for unpaid minimum wage and overtime for dozens of workers. The workers are still seeking the payments in court but have also called upon supporters to join their campaign to get the money owed to them. The workers have been long time members of the Brandworkers and NYC Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) campaign to organize and improve conditions in New York City’s food production and distribution sector.
Stay tuned for more actions in support of the Beverage Plus workers!
By Daniel Gross
The IWW has made dramatic strides in the last decade, returning to its roots as an effective and transformative labor union. Unique campaigns in diverse industries have won important gains for workers and significantly influenced the broader labor movement. Still, the building of enduring worker-led and operated industrial unions, a founding mandate of our union, has not yet been fully realized.
With the IWW’s strong recent track record, unparalleled experience in rank-and-file organizing, and rich learnings from our work, we are positioned to get to the next level of building durable industrial unions to scale.
Here are three ways we can get to the next level:
1. Take a Step BackToo many Wobbly campaigns start with a group of workers deciding they are going to talk to their co-workers and organize their shop. The idea is after the shop or chain is organized, they will then figure out how to organize the industry. This approach is not working because a shop is not a significant unit in our economy; industries are.
Instead of jumping right in to organize your shop, take a step back and look at your industry. Your job as an IWW organizer is to organize your shop, but more so, it is to co-found a successful industrial union of workers in your industry. Understand the industry, its workers, employers, customers, investors, supply chain, distribution, and so forth. Build a model to win in the industry, including at your job.
Once you have taken a step back you might decide that your industrial union building effort actually should start with organizing your shop or chain, and that is totally fine. You will have the roadmap to do it right and the mission’s clarity in that your ultimate project is to build an effective industrial union. On the other hand, you might decide on a totally different path into an industry that at the moment does not directly involve your employer. That is fine, too, as then you have just avoided years of misdirected effort.
It is completely understandable to want to get the ball rolling, fight injustice at your shop or company, and then figure out the bigger picture as you go. But, by taking a step back you will avoid the fate that has felled many Wobbly campaigns and instead, you will be investing in big, durable victories to come.
2. Get Clarity on Your StrategyMany IWW campaigns have faltered for lack of a viable strategy or even a lack of any articulated strategy. We need to learn strategy-making in the IWW. Without finding a strategy that works for your industrial union building effort, the most courageous and hard-fought efforts will be beaten.
The two essential questions to formulate strategy are: where will we struggle and how will we win? “Where to struggle” means things like which industry, sector, geographic location, employers, or other stakeholders that will be our focus. “How to win” means the unique choices we make to achieve our winning objective in the field of struggle we have picked. These two strategy questions are adapted from the work of business school professor Roger Martin, which we modified in New York for use in worker organizations. A good way to start practicing with the “where to struggle” and “how to win” questions is to apply them to various worker organizing campaigns that you are familiar with, successful and unsuccessful, inside and outside the IWW.
More than anything, your strategy must assert the power you will need to win your demands. Asserting sufficient power is extremely difficult and will not come from generic formulations. Each industrial union effort will have to do its own thinking about this question. Differ-ent industries, sectors, workers, employers and geographies pose varied challenges and opportunities for power assertion. Always include secondary targets or influencers in your analysis. A common success factor for many worker organizing campaigns has been the ability to move those stakeholders.
Several IWW campaigns today have only an employer-level strategy, which is related to the need to step back, which I have discussed. Do not fall into that trap. The mission is to build an industrial union and that requires a cascade of strategies beyond your shop or employer.
Many industrial union building efforts will need an overall organizational strategy, an industry-level strategy, a sector-level strategy, and an employer-level strategy. You will answer the where to struggle and how to win question for each level. And each level is interrelated.
You should be able to write down the core of each strategy level in the ballpark of 25 words or less. This short statement will not replace a strategic plan; but, the best engines of power assertion are amenable to simple and brief articulation. It is much easier to remember and align a team of founding fellow workers around 25 words than it is 25 pages.
Scared you will assess and test several strategies but still choose the wrong path? You probably will. However, with a system for regular strategy reviews and the will to keep the struggle alive, you will adjust until you find the strategy that works. And adjust again if it stops working. With effective strategy-making, you and other workers will see big and game-changing results in IWW organizing.
3. Build a ModelA strategy to win is necessary but not sufficient to create an industrial union. In casual conversation, we often interchange strategy and model. We cannot afford to make that mistake in the high-stakes and incredibly difficult project of founding an industrial union. Strategy is a component of an organizational model. A model includes all of your organization’s fundamental building blocks and how they interlace.
Which set of workers in the industry will you and your fellow workers seek out first? What channels will you prioritize to reach those workers? How will leaders develop?
If you are able to successfully assert power, what mechanism will use to define and hold the gains you win? A collective bargaining agreement? A code of conduct with large brands? A non-contractual standard, which was for example IWW Local 8’s approach on the Philadelphia waterfront?
How will you tie the value created by the industrial union to being a member of the organization? How will you retain members? What will you measure to see if your vision is making progress in the messy world of reality?
These are some key questions that a model must seek to answer and test. Though interrelated with strategy, hopefully, it is clear they require their own thinking and formulation. It takes a complete model for an industrial union to win, scale and endure.
Like strategy, the model almost never works right off the bat and that is fine. The key is to dialogue, debate, and document your model as founding co-workers and to stay alive. You will refine the model as you go and even transform it dramatically if needed. When it does click you will change your industry and your workplace, and maybe even the labor movement and the world.
A member of the New York City IWW, Daniel Gross founded the worker center Brandworkers and helped launch the IWW Starbucks Workers Union while he was a barista at the company.
Behind the LineThe day after Starbucks workers met at the Bat Cave we found ourselves working an understaffed morning shift but this time it was different. Instead of feeling the normal frustration, those of us who were at the meeting exchanged knowing glances and began implementing our plan of following every rule, thereby slowing down service. We also whispered to partners who were not in the know to slow down, don’t kill yourself. It was as if everyone took a deep breath and began working at a safe and thorough pace. The effects were instant. The speed of service dropped immediately. We ran out of brewed coffee because we were only brewing when the beeper signaled it was time. Everyone stayed in the positions they were assigned and acted only at the directions of the Store Manager. Every 10 minutes when someone was assigned to clean the lobby, we did a thorough job, ensuring everything was clean and properly stocked. Every drink and food order was perfect.
Dan, the Store Manager, lost his mind. He was running around like a crazed man. It was the most any of us had ever seen him work. The best part was he couldn’t get mad at us, not only were we doing our jobs but we were doing them exactly as we should. Each drink was made perfectly, every pastry was cooked one at a time on the correct oven setting, and each cleaning task was done exactly as it should be. We continued to do this all week. We found ourselves giggling and sharing secret exchanges of encouragement. It was common to hear “wow, look Dan is working today! Now he knows what we go through every day”. We were working as a team instead of blaming each other for a situation that none of us could control. Meanwhile, partners were calling Partner Resources. Everyone called the hotline number, with the exception of two baristas and two supervisors. We all stuck to the issues we came up with in the initial meeting, with the hope that our calls would tell a consistent story.
Nothing seemed to be happening but at least we felt in control. We felt like we were doing something to make our jobs and our lives better rather than hoping things would change. These were our jobs, our store and our customers, without us there would be no Starbucks. Our ability to slow down the rate of business reinforced this fact.
A week after we started our work to rule and coordinated contacts to Partner Resources we saw the results. An investigation was launched into our store. Dan’s bosses were in our store every day. Interestingly enough the investigation was not the result of our phone calls and complaints but because we had cut business in the store by over $10,000 that week by slowing down. Dan’s bosses were furious at the loss of business. They watched as every 5th customer left the store because the line was too long and slow moving. When baristas were asked why this was happening we all replied, “we are understaffed. We need between 7 to 9 people to do our jobs well and keep customers happy”. The next weeks schedule had already been printed but suddenly Dan was asking everyone if they want more hours. He added at least two people to every shift. After that we always had enough people scheduled to do our jobs right. Dan now knew what would happen if we were understaffed and he knew the loss of business we could cause him would likely affect his future at the company.
Sadly, we were not able to get Dan removed as a Store Manager, he continues to make our lives a living hell. However, the power we felt that week will not be forgotten. The ties of solidarity amongst those involved in the planning and implementation will be long lasting. We all tasted what it would be like to have control over our jobs and that can never be taken away.
Addendum: Almost exactly a year from his first day at our store, Dan was removed from his position as Store Manager. Of the 21 people who participated in actions to remove him, 7 baristas had transferred, 4 were fired, and 8 quit.
Read Part 1: The Match That Started the Fire.
Read Part 2: The Bat Cave.
Look for The Truth About the Million Dollar Coffee Company by FW Lyssa coming Wednesday May 7th.
Starbucks Workers Union